Environment

Serbia’s Ministry of Energy files charges against ex-Minister of Environmental Protection over small hydropower plants

Serbia Ministry Energy charges ex-Minister Environmental small hydropower

Josep Monter Martinez from Pixabay

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July 12, 2021

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Published:

July 12, 2021

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Former Minister of Environmental Protection Goran Trivan inflicted damage to the environment in Serbia and violated the country’s rights and interests, especially in protected areas, by failing to perform official duties and supervise small hydropower plant projects, according to the Ministry of Mining and Energy, which filed criminal charges against him and Director of Institute for Nature Conservation Aleksandar Dragišić.

The Ministry of Mining and Energy said that it filed criminal charges on May 27 with the Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime against former Minister of Environmental Protection Goran Trivan and Director of Institute for Nature Conservation of Serbia Aleksandar Dragišić.

Trivan is responsible for criminal negligence, the damage inflicted to the environment and a grave violation of Serbia’s rights and interests as from June 2017 to October 2020 he misused the powers of his office and failed to perform official duties and supervision duties even though problems appeared in the implementation of small hydropower plant projects, according to the announcement.

Trivan could have prevented projects in protected areas

The ministry alleges the previous minister didn’t supervise the legality of the activities of the Institute for Nature Conservation of Serbia and that he didn’t initiate changes to the Decree on the Protection Regimes, which allows the construction of small hydropower plants with the capacity of up to 5 MW in areas with the second degree of protection, and by doing so he could have prevented the next projects in protected areas.

Trivan didn’t initiate the issuance of a new decree with a list of projects that would stipulate that an impact assessment is required for all small hydropower plants regardless of the capacity, even though the draft of the decree was finished, the ministry said. In the charges, it notes that he didn’t initiate the production and adoption of a rulebook on the minimum sustainable flow even though he was obligated to do so by the Water Law.

The ministry claims Trivan’s failure to act led to pollution, watercourses drying out, unequal practice, investments ceasing as well as to protests

Such handling led to pollution, watercourses dried out due to a lack of a clear and defined level of sustainable flow (biological minimum), and local authorities acted differently in the processes of making decisions on the need to produce environmental impact studies, the ministry said.

The legal insecurity amid the changes in the Institute for Nature Conservation’s decisions and conditions led many investments in SHPPs to a halt and to mass protests by citizens – not only the local population but also nongovernmental organizations – “which had, as a consequence, the destruction of private property of SHPP owners and the endangerment of the safety and security of the citizens of the RS” (Republic of Serbia), the ministry claims.

Environmentalists filed criminal complaints against Trivan while he was still in office for, as they said, failing to introduce environmental protection measures with regard to air pollution in the whole country and the mining town of Bor, and also for an alleged violation of the right to be informed about the state of the environment.

Dragišić allegedly changed existing nature protection conditions for Jelovica, Pakleštica

The criminal complaint against Dragišić was filed on reasonable suspicion that by abusing the powers of his office and by failing to perform official duties and supervision he inflicted damage to Serbia and gravely violated the rights and interests of the country and individual investors, especially in protected areas, by changing the nature protection requirements (an integral part of location requirements), even though investors already acted upon the previously issued location requirements, and the requirements were changed from negative to positive and vice versa in the cases of SHPP Jelovica on Jelovička river and SHPP Pakleštica on the Visočica river, according to the statement.

The ministry said it also led to different practices by local authorities, to investments being halted, to protests, destruction of property and the endangerment of safety as well as that it created “the condition against the RS to pay damages.”

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